The Art of Piano Chord Voicings

The Art of Voicing is a manner in which one distributes or spaces the notes of chords. When you listen to music, you probably focus on the melody. That is the familiar part of a tune that is easy to hear.

When you sing along or hum throughout some of the music, it is the melody and not the background that you think of. To have this important part of the music stand out, the melody should be louder than the accompaniment. However, this is not always easy to do.

Every voicing should flow smoothly to the next one and your hands will more than likely be moving just a little. By voicing chords you bring attention to certain notes more than others. So sometimes instead of using a clear melody, artists play a bunch of double notes and chords. You should always voice all double notes and chords to give them more clarity.

If you are playing all the notes at the same volume, you cannot hear the melody very clearly. So you will want to pick out the one note in each chord to play a bit louder. This is what we mean by voicing.

If your hands are jumping all over the place, you are probably not using good voice leading. The art of voice leading is the smooth movement of notes from one chord to the next. Very often the note you should voice is on the top of the chord, but sometimes the middle voices have hidden melodies that are more interesting than the top voice.

When looking at a chord passage in your music, decide which voice needs more sound and which can be played softer. Listen to other recordings of pianists bringing out the top voice for each chord in the right hand.

With practice try playing the middle note of a chord louder than the other two notes. Next, focus on the bottom note of a chord. Think of chords being sung in a choir. Each note is a different voice such as bass, tenor, alto and soprano. Your ear will usually hear the soprano sing and ride on the melody line. Those wonderful harmony parts add so much color, flavor and tone in the background of the song.

Voicings become easier to play and you will discover that your hands are barely moving especially when it comes to shell voicings since the roots are moving down in fifths or up in fourths. Later on you will learn more left hand voicings in bebop style, rootless left hand voicings and rootless shell voicings. When the left hand plays the third and seventh of each chord, these rootless shell voicings allow the right hand the freedom to improvise.

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